Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with the Stuttgart one: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

ROH Return to the Roundhouse

Opera transcends time and place. An anonymous letter, printed with the libretto of Monteverdi’s Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia and written two years before his death, assures the reader that Monteverdi’s music will continue to affect and entrance future generations:

London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates Bernstein and Holst anniversaries

One recent survey suggested that in 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36, whereas now it is 60-plus. So, how pleasing it was to see the Barbican Centre foyers, cafes and the Hall itself crowded with young people, as members of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra prepared to perform with soprano Louise Alder and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, in a well-balanced programme that culminated with an ‘anniversary’ performance of Holst’s The Planets.

Salome at the Royal Opera House

In De Profundis, his long epistle to ‘Dear Bosie’, Oscar Wilde speaks literally ‘from the depths’, incarcerated in his prison cell in Reading Gaol. As he challenges the young lover who has betrayed him and excoriates Society for its wrong and unjust laws, Wilde also subjects his own aesthetic ethos to some hard questioning, re-evaluating a life lived in avowal of the amorality of luxury and beauty.

In the Beginning ... Time Unwrapped at Kings Place

Epic, innovative and bold, Haydn’s The Creation epitomises the grandeur and spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its recent production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled an ideal cast of performers who blend well into an imaginative and colorful production.

New Cinderella SRO in San Jose

Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella is most remarkable for one reason and one reason alone: It was composed by a 12-year old girl.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

La Cenerentola in Lyon

Like Stendhal when he first saw Rossini’s Cenerentola in Trieste in 1823, I was left stone cold by Rossini’s Cendrillon last night in Lyon. Stendhal complained that in Trieste nothing had been left to the imagination. As well, in Lyon nothing, absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.

Messiah, who?: The Academy of Ancient Music bring old and new voices together

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Messiah. And, at the Barbican Hall, the Academy of Ancient Music reminded us why … while never letting us settle into complacency.

The Golden Cockerel Bedazzles in Amsterdam

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, London - Rattle, O'Neill, Gerhaher

By pairing Mahler Das Lied von der Erde (Simon O'Neill, Christian Gerhaher) with Strauss Metamorphosen, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra were making a truly powerful statement. The Barbican performance last night was no ordinary concert. This performance was extraordinary because it carried a message.

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele
23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele

Mefistofele: Ferruccio Furlanetto; Faust: Giuseppe Filianoti; Margherita/Elena: Dimitra Theodossiou; Marta: Sonia Zaramella; Wagner/Nereo: Mimmo Ghegghi; Pantalis: Monica Minarelli. Stefano Ranzani conducting. Stage Director: Giancarlo Del Monaco. Live performance at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, January 2008.

Dynamic 33581 [2DVDs]

$48.49  Click to buy

Indeed, the original, no longer extant, version of this work was approximately six hours in length. Even in the severely truncated revised version, Mefistofele has always proven itself to be a serious work, with a libretto that (like Busoni’s Doktor Faust) has some real literary merit. Unfortunately, following the reigning spirit of Regieoper in Europe, director Miguel Del Monaco and set designer Carlo Centolavigna have all but denuded this great opera of its serious intent.

Opting for a 20th-century setting (which in and of itself is not a problem), the “creative” team behind this production has missed the central point of Boito’s (and by extension, Goethe’s) drama, namely, the age-old Platonic opposition of the real and the ideal, in this case, represented by the Margherita/Elena (Helen of Troy) duality. While the ever-reliable Dimitra Theodossiou is afforded the opportunity to continue the tradition of performing both roles, the intention behind this appears to be economic rather than dramatic.

Act I is set in Frankfurt during Easter Sunday, but it is in the Germany of the 1920s, not during Martin Luther’s time. This is at best a questionable tactic because the seemingly peaceful interregnum of the Weimar Republic had such terrible consequences in the following decades. Overloading the already heavily-laden symbolism of the Faust legend with the tragedy of modern German history helps to obscure Faust’s personal dilemma. Adding to the incoherence of the staging, Del Monaco then proves not to have the courage of his convictions by at least being consistent with the historical implications of his staging of Act I, and sets Act IV, the Night of the Classical Sabbath, in Las Vegas. Helen of Troy is reduced to being a showgirl in a tawdry stage show and her attendant Nymphs reminded me of the June Taylor Dancers who used to open the Jackie Gleason TV Show of the 1960s with overhead shots featuring kaleidoscopic choreography.

The ultimate consequence of this staging of Mefistofele is that the characters of Faust and Margherita/Elena are reduced to mere appendages of Mefistofele’s mercurial personality. One of the problems with this opera has always been the overshadowing of Faust and Margherita by Mefistofele. Del Monaco’s staging has exacerbated tenfold this dramatic disparity.

The one saving grace of this production is Ferruccio Furlanetto’s Mefistofele. His performance incorporates a spectacular bass voice with animated acting. The acting, at times, may appear to be a bit over the top, but it is forgivable given the imbecility of the staging. Indeed, Furlanetto’s performance helps to divert attention away from the visual and back to the musical, and for that we must be grateful.

To be charitable to the performers, I thought that the singers and orchestra performed rather well, but at times it was difficult to gauge this accurately since this DVD suffers from very poor balance. Even allowing for the recording difficulties inherent in a live performance, there is really no excuse in this day and age for a professionally recorded DVD to have such poor audio quality.

This DVD will have appeal mostly to fans of Ferruccio Furlanetto. My advice is to turn off the video and listen to the voice.

William E. Grim

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):